Armed guards are patrolling outside churches in Nigeria. Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia are cowering in fear. Why? Because it’s Christmastime.
Many Muslims take a dim view of Christmas at best, and at worst actively menace Christians celebrating it. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Sheikh Yahya Safi, the head imam of Australia’s largest mosque, summed up an all-too-common view when he warned in a fatwa Saturday that “disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path,” and that “a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them.”
Likewise the chairman of Indonesia’s top organization of Muslim clerics declared: “It’s better if they don’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It’s still up for debate whether it’s halal or haram, so better steer clear of it. But you can say ‘Happy New Year.’”
The popular online fatwa site Islam QA of the influential Saudi cleric Muhammad Saleh al-Munajjid explains further: “It is not permissible to imitate the kuffaar [unbelievers] in any of their acts of worship, rituals or symbols, because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever imitates a people is one of them.’” Indeed, “it is haraam [forbidden] to imitate the disbelievers and that it is obligatory to differ from those who are doomed to Hell.”
As might be expected from a religion that expects its adherents to be the executors of the divine wrath in this world, these condemnations of Christmas and Christians, and prohibitions on giving good wishes or joining in the celebrations, sometimes metastasize into intimidation and open violence. The Qur’an, after all, says that the unbelievers’ works will come to naught in this world as well as in the next (cf. 3:22), and Muslims must ensure it by making the lives of the infidels as miserable as possible.